Blood Sport: Become a 5v5 master (healing pairs of 2-healer teams)

C. Christian Moore
C. Moore|08.02.10

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Want to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women? Blood Sport investigates the entirety of all things arena for gladiators and challengers alike. C. Christian Moore, multiple rank 1 gladiator, examines the latest arena strategy, trends, compositions and more in's arena column.

Listening Music
: Radiohead's Street Spirit (fade out) and Karma Police. I've featured Radiohead three times now and no one else twice. Sorry about that, and you're welcome. Nico Di Mattia is a pretty awesome artist too.

Last Week: We talked about accomplishing your PvP goals. This article is kind of an extension of it, hooray!

This Week: I started enjoying 5v5 at the end of season two. For a large part of my time in WoW, 5v5 was by far and wide my favorite arena bracket. It's also the bracket I've gotten most of my rank #1 titles from (clearly no coincidence to being my favorite bracket *wink*).

The 5v5 bracket is a far different beast than 2v2 or 3v3 and is far more misunderstood. I've met 2v2 and 3v3 gladiators who just cannot comprehend the differences in the 5v5 bracket. 5v5 is the Rodney Dangerfield of arena. The bracket just doesn't get enough respect. The biggest misconception centers around 5v5 being a "zerg" bracket.

You like how I throw around StarCraft terms like cowpies? Mhmm.

Wrath of the burst king

Many players believe 5v5 games come down to who can dish out the most damage in the shortest time. Wrath of the Lich King, unfortunately, has done little to disprove this fallacy. However, even in Wrath, an exceptionally coordinated 5v5 will be able to amass impressive win-loss ratios while occasionally playing 4v5 because of disconnects. This isn't because their four players deal far more damage than the opposing team's full team. Composition, coordination, role assessment and individual player skill are the reason any team wins in any arena bracket -- not just 2v2 or 3v3.

For instance, I've ended arena seasons on No. 1 5v5s with pretty lopsided win ratios -- 118-5, 142-7 and 290-11. I'm not writing this to give myself a giant e-hug or toot my own horn. I want to share some thoughts about how an experienced 5v5 player approaches the bracket, and perhaps it can help you to improve your game.

Team composition

I split all 5v5 teams into three categories: one-healer, two-healer, three-healer. Many players use the terms 4DPS, 3DPS and 2DPS (or drain), but I tend to look at an opposing 5v5's healing combination first. A later article will deal with this distinction and why I believe it is so important to first look at healing capabilities on an enemy team.

Two-healer teams

I'm starting with two-healer teams because they are (by large majority) the norm among high-ranking 5v5 compositions.

Two-healer compositions are historically the most successful type of 5v5 composition because most two-healer teams have a distinct advantage against most one-healer (4DPS) teams. Moreover, personal experience has shown me that two-healer compositions are an easier format in which to play sloppily and still pull out wins than one-healer or three-healer teams.

Common healing setups on two-healer compositions are holy paladin-discipline priest and restoration druid-discipline priest. Restoration shamans aren't necessarily rare on high-rated 5v5 teams, but they are fairly uncommon on two-healer setups (more on this at the bottom).


Holy paladin-discipline priest is (historically speaking) the most successful pairing of healers on a two-healer composition. The amount of defensive dispels and defensive cooldowns these two healers have access to is simply astonishing. The priest also allows the 5v5 to have a bit more offensive capacity with his offensive dispels, Mana Burns and finishing damage.

The pair is especially successful because of the ability to dispel crowd control off of each other. Paladins possess Cleanse, an important tool in removing troublesome Fears, Polymorphs and other troublesome crowd controls. Priests enjoy a double defensive dispel, which is incredibly potent in nearly any 5v5 situation. No other healing pair in WoW (other than perhaps priest-priest) can break crowd control as well as paladin-priest.

As a slight aside, I personally consider discipline priests to be the single most important member of any two-healer 5v5 team and always start a two-healer 5v5 team with a strong discipline priest foundation in mind. Discipline priests get much better when you stack them with other healers (so they can go offensive with Mana Burns, crowd control and offensive dispels).

This is one of many reasons holy paladins work very well with discipline priests -- the holy paladin can be the main healer of the team while the discipline priest is an off healer. Most successful two-healer compositions will assign one healer to be the main healer of the group; the off healer will heal whenever the main healer is crowd controlled or (in the case of a discipline priest) try to dispel the MH as top priority.

Let's take a (historically) common cookie-cutter 5v5 lineup that utilizes the paladin-priest healing duo: 2345.

2345 consists of:
  • (234) Holy paladin
  • (234) Discipline priest
  • (234) Arms warrior (or hunter)
  • (234) Elemental shaman
  • (5) Frost mage
If any of the team names are confusing, please visit our arena glossary.

In this lineup, the holy paladin will be main-healing (usually enemy teams will be attempting to kill the shaman or warrior; in some cases, the priest may also be targeted). It's the paladin's responsibility to keep the team alive, and he might call out that he needs help on a teammate because damage is too great, he feels a switch incoming, he is out of line of sight, etc. Throwing Hammer of Justice on enemies (especially healers) is the sign of an exceptional holy paladin -- he knows when to expose himself to crowd control to punish the enemy team's position.

The discipline priest will be assigned to offensively dispelling, Mana Burning, using defensive cooldowns (Power Word: Shield and Pain Suppression, most notably), finishing off targets with very low health (Penance, Shadow Word: Death) and off-healing.

A fun (although not completely accurate) way to look at holy paladin-discipline priest healing combos is to view them as one-and-a-half healing teams. The holy paladin is usually only healing and using survivability cooldowns with the occasional Hammer of Justice, while the discipline priest does all the utility work.

Most two-healing 5v5 combinations also have a utility player on DPS; we'll get to that in a week or two.

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